The RSPCA’s chief veterinary officer has backed a petition calling for “urgent action” to address the growing number of dogs coming into clinics across the country with breathing problems.

James Yeates signed the petition – which has, so far, attracted more than 1,100 signatures – and has circulated it amongst the animal welfare charity’s other vets and veterinary nurses in England and Wales.

1. Nasal Cavity 2. Oral Cavity3. Soft Palate 4. Pharynx 5. Larynx 6. Trachea7. Esophagus 8. Nasopharynx 9. Hard Palate

The petition (available here) calls for a working party to tackle the issues associated with brachycephaly in dogs. It is often seen in flat-faced breeds such as pugs and bulldogs.

James said: “The evidence is clear and obvious enough even to non-vets. The ability to breathe, exercise and keep cool are fairly basic requirements for us to expect every dog to have.

“Of course, brachycephaly is just one of many breed-related health problems in pedigree and purebred dogs.

“Members of the public expect those who breed dogs to have done everything they can to ensure the animals they sell are fit for a happy life as a beloved pet. Although some progress has been made by the dog world to address these issues, it has not been nearly enough.

“We would be very keen to work alongside the British Veterinary Association, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, The Kennel Club, Animal Health Trust and others as a working party to work out how we can safeguard animal health.”

The RSPCA remain concerned that many pedigree dogs are still suffering because they’re bred and judged primarily for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind. For example, dogs with short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally developed windpipes. They can suffer severe breathing difficulties and many have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing.

More urgently needs to be done to protect the future health of dogs and the RSPCA believes that all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed, in order to protect the welfare of both the parents and offspring.

In order to win dog shows, pedigree dogs have been bred to emphasise certain physical features in accordance with breed standards. The dog most closely matching its breed standard is awarded the winner. Many breed standards include exaggerated physical features, some of which have become so extreme that they can cause pain and suffering, some make dogs prone to particular disorders, and some prevent them from behaving normally.

We believe that the breed standards need urgent review so that they prioritise the health, welfare and temperament of the dogs over their looks, and we would welcome the creation of a working party to look into ways to tackle this issue head-on. We’d be very keen in working with others to ensure welfare is of primary concern to all dog breeders, buyers and show judges, and that future generations of dogs are happy and healthy.

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